NFL Combine Workouts: Defensive Linemen and Linebackers Review

Draft Prospect Khalil Mack Some Rights Reserved by ChadCooperPhotos

Draft Prospect Khalil Mack
Some Rights Reserved by ChadCooperPhotos

The NFL combine marches onwards. Monday was the turn of the linebackers and defensive linemen. These big men had a lot to prove in the combine, and there were no shortage of men trying to make a name for themselves during Mondays workout. We look at the biggest storylines from the linebackers and defensive linemen’s workout at the combine.

Jadeveon Clowney Continues to Make Things Difficult For GMs.

Jadevon Clowney is an enigma, perhaps the most enigmatic player in this years draft. On the one hand he is undoubtedly prodigiously skilled physical specimen, a top five player in terms of skill. On the other, there are so many question marks around his character, work ethic and maturity as to make him almost undraftable by some accounts, a guaranteed draft bust.

Many teams will have attended the combine hoping that Clowney would bomb—certainly, a poor on-field performance would have simplified their decision to move him down their boards—or else to finally assuage their fears once and for all. Instead, he continued to make their lives difficult.

Clowney weighed in at 266 lbs, and at over 6’5″ tall, he posted some unbelievable numbers at the combine. Clowney, who plays at defensive end ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash and logged a 37 1/2″ vertical jump and 10’4″ broad jump. For a player of his position and size, these numbers are beyond belief.

And yet, at the same time, he reinforced several of the most severe concerns of teams by opting out of several drills.

Without a doubt, Clowney certainly would have faced some very tough questioning about his maturity and work ethic during interviews and would need to have had a great way with words to convince certain teams to take a chance on him.

Clowney will be a top ten pick come the draft in May. reward prospect.

More than a few teams will face a very difficult decision—take a chance that they can whip him into shape and trust that they can capitalise on his prodigious skill, or pass on him, and trust that he will prove too undisciplined to succeed, knowing that if he is successful, they could have handed a rival one of the steals of the draft.

Michael Sam’s Stock Continues to Suffer.

Michael Sam has already sat by and watched his draft stock plummet in the days that followed his announcement that he was gay. He knew that only an outstanding combine would see it rebound to anywhere near the level it was at before his announcement.

Reportedly teams were very impressed by Sam during his interviews, by all accounts he presented himself very well. He laid to rest a lot of fears teams may have had about the extra media attention a player like Sam would bring to their team.

However, at the same time, he struggled in almost all of his workouts, posting very uninspiring numbers across the board.

His 4.91 40 yard dash time was only fractionally better than a number of 300+ lb offensive linemen—indeed, Taylor Lewan was actually quicker here. His measurable numbers in every other key drill were similarly average.

Worse still, however, was his performance in position drills. Sam had hoped to prove that he had the ability to transition to linebacker in the NFL. However, in position drills he looked stiff and uncomfortable in this role. He lacked flexibility and explosiveness, especially when changing direction.

Sam is currently unsuited to start as a 4-3 defensive end—his college position—at an NFL level. Yet clearly, the learning curve for transitioning to 3-4 outside linebacker will be steep, and unnatural. Some now suggest that his most useful position will be as a designated pass rusher, a little used and marginal position on most teams.

The future for the NFL’s first openly gay player is, sadly, looking bleaker and bleaker with every passing week.

Khalil Mack Making Case For First Defensive Player Picked.

Khalil Mack may well be the best defensive player in this years draft. Although Clowney is grabbing headlines, Mack is quietly making his presence felt.

Coming into the draft, Mike Mayock already had Mack ranked as the best defensive prospect in the draft. Coming out of the combine, many people are starting to come around to his way of thinking.

Mack was outstanding in all drills, especially considering his size. He posted some of the top numbers for his position in the 40 yard dash, running a 4.65, vertical jump, at 40″, broad jump with a 10’8″ effort and 20-yard shuttle completing the circuit in 4.18 seconds.

But however breath-taking these numbers were, where he really shone was in his position drills, where he showed unbelievable poise balance and body control. He was fluid and smooth, making effortless changes of direction, and transitions.

Mack certainly appeared to be one of, if not the best, all around defensive player we have seen thus far in the combine, though sadly for Mack’s ultimate draft position may not reflect this.

Teams rarely value outside linebackers as highly as some other defensive positions, and Clowney may indeed have more upside, so Mack would certainly accept even a top ten valuation at this point. But rarely does such a polished, NFL ready player become available and any team looking for a day-one starter who can make a real impact in the NFL need look no further than Mack.

Mack could yet become the first defensive player taken if a team has a need at the position which could be plugged instantly by Mack. If the Rams choose to go with a wideout in the first round, and offensive players dominate the early selections the Oakland Raiders at three or Atlanta Falcons at seventh could both legitimately select Mack before any other player goes off the board.

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